Rami & Tomi Kurtakko
Building below zero
Building a new home that’s always been there.
When Gustav stumbled upon an abandoned potato starch factory on a Swedish real estate website, he knew immediately that he was going to be the next owner. Undaunted by images of a dilapidated house, an overgrown lot, and roofless factory building, Gustav instinctively recognised the post-industrial potential of the property. This was his chance to create the kind of personal space he has always wanted to live in.
As an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry, Gustav is no stranger to designing and building distinctive environments. From restaurants to hotels, he’s done it all. So when he began this most recent project, aptly named ”The Starch Factory”, he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do. Create rooms within rooms, mixing the old with the new, and the modern with the rustic.
The factory itself stems from the late 1800’s, the house from the early 1930’s, and both have been abandoned for more than 70 years. That meant there was a lot of history to take into account. Gustav spent the first six months of the project methodically sorting through and organising objects on the property. He stacked old bricks, roof tiles, and beams, while carefully cataloguing rusty ironwork fittings and tools, vintage electrical fixtures, and anything else that was a part of the property’s vast inventory.
The next practical step in the project says a lot about Gustav’s passions. After clearing out the old factory building, he immediately started turning it into a garden oasis. He removed six of the nine trees growing within the roofless factory walls, and replaced them with herb, spice, and vegetable gardens. Gustav also built an outdoor kitchen and dining area, completing a truly unique and decidedly continental space for entertaining.
Throughout the project, Gustav’s north star has been that no matter what he builds or creates, everything has to feel as if it’s always been there. Even when it’s completely new. That’s one part sustainability, two parts aesthetic, and a dash of southern Swedish entrepreneurship thrown into the mix.
Gustav likes telling a story that brings this guiding philosophy to life. A neighbour and professional bricklayer helped Gustav build a new wall with old limestone bricks. But contrary to what his neighbour suggested, Gustav insisted that the blemished and chipped sides of the bricks faced outwards. That’s what gives the wall a distinct character. Combined with the fact that they used grout instead of mortar, and the wall they ended up building really does look and feel as if it has always been there.
So far there’s been more than 50 friends, neighbours, and professionals – all working as a team to bring The Starch Factory to life. Everyone’s contributed with their special expertise, not just about restoring old buildings with recycled materials, but also about the importance of choosing the right materials, and using purposefully designed tools.
For Gustav, that’s meant a rewarding learning curve. For instance, he wore out a pair of no-name work trousers during his first week of rummaging in the factory. And that became lesson number one. You can’t cut corners when it comes to tools, materials, or craftsmanship. Gustav could not have been able to do what he’s done in The Starch Factory without the durability and functionality of his Snickers Workwear.
PLACE: Härnestad, Sweden
FAMILY: Boris, an Italian Mastiff